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OPINION: Prior to a crucial council vote coming forward on the Dionne Homestead, I am restless.

They unfortunately often get voted into positions of power and influence and are given authority to make decisions on our behalf and that is why we must continue to fight and challenge them to do the right things and make decisions towards the common good and benefit of our children and future generations.
dionne quints as children 2017
The Dionne Quints.

By Miles Peters, North Bay

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It is 2.55 am Sunday morning. I just woke up wide-eyed and with a busy mind knowing I have some unfinished efforts to complete prior to a crucial council vote coming forward on April 4 that will decide once and for all what is to be done with the Dionne Homestead. I am restless.

I had the privilege last Friday to host a reporter from The New York Times on a tour/interview, through the former home of Dr. Dafoe, now the Callander Museum ,the remains of Quintland and the somewhat desolate grave site to view the monuments of Emilie, the first of the five sisters to depart this world when she was only 20, and the Dionne parents and grandparents

Upon receiving the call from Ian Austen, the NYT reporter, the night before, I decided to call Mr. Roch Legros, who owns a section of the acreage where the homestead was originally located. Roch had passionately tried to honour his combined family heritage with his dedicated attempts to fund and return the homestead to the site adjacent to its original setting. I had hoped that by inviting Roch to join us that his spirits would be lifted somewhat as I have known for awhile that he was deeply saddened and discouraged by what had transpired during his honourable attempts to save the home and even more concerned about the possibility that the monumental legacy and iconic homestead could potentially be diminished and denigrated by destruction or exile.

Although pleased with the opportunity, Roch declined to make it on Friday, but instead, he called his friend and supporter Mr. Deryk Hagar, a local historian and heritage consultant who had formerly worked at the Callander Museum as assistant to the curator and asked if he could accompany us. That selfless and fateful initiative that Roch Legros inspired that evening could prove remarkable.

Deryk walked us through the lives of the Dionnes with Natasha Wiatr, the present curator of the Callander Museum. Most of the information and history they imparted I had never heard before and neither had I viewed the artefacts or examined the buildings up close. I was personally absorbed and impressed by their knowledge, enthusiasm, and passion for each and every part of the Dionne Legacy. Even though their educational backgrounds, knowledge, and appreciation of history, art and artefact were far greater than my own, I appreciated the fact that our passion and dedication towards honouring this legacy were equally founded and valid.

In preparation for our forthcoming interview, Ian candidly had asked me to ponder why I was so determined and passionate in my efforts to keep the homestead and artefacts intact and within its foundational region.

Unable to sleep that evening, I began writing the answer to Ian’s question. As I reflected back on my own personal journey I knew at once why I and others have taken up this effort to try and prevent a historical tragedy that would dishonour and denigrate the Dionne legacy. Although my life was nowhere near as tragic or even remotely comparable to what the Dionne sisters have had to endure, I have experienced many of the same emotions, injustice and hurts on an entirely different journey, and I know many others have also. Our experiences became the essential substances of who we have become, albeit painful and enduring, I realize that I would not want to change a single event or regret any part of our histories.

I recalled my personal memories of sitting alone in the Chippewa School cafeteria after I entered Grade 9.  I was too humiliated and not welcomed to sit close to my fellow students and peers, as my life was different from theirs. In well-worn attire, I had to watch them eat their tempting cafeteria lunches which cost thirty-five cents at that time and they even had eight cent bottles of chocolate milk which I would drool over with envy. I thought about the taunts, bullying and persistent stares which seemed constant as I struggled to devour a dry sliced potato or peanut butter sandwich with nothing to drink till I got to the water fountain. I imagined for a moment how it would have been for the Quints being stared at daily by the over 3 million people who paraded past them day after day. I feel so blessed in comparison.

It was a welcome relief and a blessing that my formal education would fatefully and abruptly come to an end by necessity following the untimely death of our father and completion of grade 10. Life began to change course then for which I am truly grateful

I tell you this one little difficult but cherished private episode within my personal life so you may comprehend more clearly my answer to the question Ian asked of me prior to our interview. I presented the same notes to him at the end of our day for him to contemplate.

Hopefully it will help enlighten those who feel this story has little current or future value or who may think that less than 10% ($168,000) from the proceeds of the 1.68 million dollar hosting land sale is far too much to spend for moving, mending  and cherishing  the  most worldly known and appealing historical asset and experience that Canada has ever had.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who have lived far more stable lives of wealth, luxury, prominence and opportunity. Their worlds revolve primarily around themselves, immediate family, money, assets and an insatiable appetite for public prestige. Though lacking in sensitivity, they unfortunately often get voted into positions of power and influence and are given authority to make decisions on our behalf and that is why we must continue to fight and challenge them to do the right things and make decisions towards the common good and benefit of our children and future generations.

Yours Truly

Miles Peters, North Bay